Building on various feminist theories of ethos, the authors in this collection explore how North American Catholic women from various periods, races, ethnicities, sexualities, and classes have used elements of the group’s positionality to make change. The women considered in the book range from the earliest Catholic sisters who arrived in the United States to women who held the Church hierarchy accountable for the sexual abuse scandals. The book analyzes women such as those in an African American order who developed an ethos that would resist racism. Chapters also consider better known Catholic women such as Dolores Huertas, Mary Daly, and Joan Chittister.
Elizabethada A. Wright is professor of writing studies at University of Minnesota Duluth.
Christina R. Pinkston is assistant professor of English at Norfolk State University.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Ethos, the Patriarchy, and Feminist Resistance
Elizabethada A. Wright
Part I: Ethos within Women’s Religious Orders
Chapter One: ‘If we are always your cherished daughters’: Ethos, Parrhesia, and Two Nineteenth-Century European-American Catholic Sisters
Chapter Two: Remembering Mother McAuley: Epideictic Rhetoric, Ethos, and Memory
Amy Ferdinandt Stolley
Chapter Three: The Habits and Dwelling Places of Sisters of Color: The New Orleans’ Soeurs de Sainte-Famille’s Reconstruction of Ethos
Elizabethada A. Wright and Christiana Ares-Christian
Chapter Four: Corporeal, Confrontational Resistance: The Embodied Rhetoric of the Sisters of Loretto
Part II: Intersections of Lay and Clergy
Chapter Five: Who Owns This Church? Feminist Methods of Protest and Lay Catholic Activism
Laura J. Panning Davies
Chapter Six: Clergy Sex Abuse Scandals and the (Re)Making of Good Catholic Mothers
Allison Niebauer and Elisa Vogel
Chapter Seven: Ethos as Presence in Lay Catholic Women’s Rhetorics of Accountability
Part III: Catholic Lay Women’s Ethos
Chapter Eight: A Leader and a Lady: Catholic Women’s Use of Business Writing to Create an Ethos of Professionalism and Catholic Lay Womanhood
Jennifer Crosby Burgess
Chapter Nine: Mary Daly’s Radical Ethos as Epistemic Voyage
Chapter Ten: Metanoic Faith: Living Rhetorically in Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness
Chapter Eleven: Word and Deed: Dolores Huerta, Chicana Feminism and a Zurdo Ethos of Faith in Action
Part IV: Women Religious Negotiations of Ethos
Chapter Twelve: Sister Miriam Joseph’s Rhetorical Advocacy: The Trivium and Renaissance Rhetoric at St. Mary’s College, 1931-1960
Chapter Thirteen: Holiness is Not for Wimps: The Rhetoric of Mother Angelica
Jennifer L. Bay
Chapter Fourteen: A Time to be Queer: Challenging the Rhetoric of Acceptance through the Works of Sister Joan Chittister
Chapter Fifteen: Standing in the Eye of the Storm: The Eternal Habits of US Women Religious
Landmark studies do not belie this volume’s thesis that the rhetorical activities of Roman Catholic women have been largely neglected: either they are voiceless nonentities under the Church’s (male) thumb; or anything interesting about their rhetoric can be isolated from their faith commitments. But here, contemporary theories of ecologically defined ethos reveal Catholic women’s deployment of rich rhetorical resources in studies of women’s religious orders, laywomen’s activism, leadership by figures such as Mary Daly and Dolores Huerta, and the dynamic public ethos of Mother Angelica and Sister Joan Chittister, among others. When the rhetorical activities of other marginalized groups have been analyzed, important insights have emerged for the entire field, not only for members of those groups, and scholars will find the same broad significance in this volume. I know I did!
Catholic Women's Rhetoric is a groundbreaking collection exploring neglected topics in the history of rhetorical education and religious activism in the United States. These challenging essays provide significant insights into the institutional roles played by women in the public sphere, especially the accomplishments of female religious orders. As a whole, the volume demonstrates the power of feminist rhetorical scholarship to reveal the enabling conditions of historical agency for lay and religious Catholic women, the patriarchal constraints overcome, and the active resistances achieved. Scholars in all the humanistic disciplines will find this collection to be a rich resource for thinking about rhetorical practices in religious and political contexts, especially the negotiations and deployments of ethos, individual and collective.
I’m so excited about this collection; it’s time we paid more attention to Catholic women. Despite its paternalistic hierarchy, the Catholic Church has provided a home for a large portion of American women and for numerous, important activist women who have remained largely ignored. Even those who are better known, such as Mother McAuley, have been viewed primarily through a religious lens. We get a fresh perspective on these women, not just of their rhetoric, but of the person and their society… As I read, I could think of numerous tangential issues I hope scholars will pursue. Perhaps this work will spur such further research among its readers.
This book focuses on emerging feminist redefinitions of ethos, showing what these theories look like in feminist rhetoric of women in the Catholic Church, an institution built on patriarchal structures and ideology. The stories that emerge from these analytical essays are fascinating in themselves. We learn about the struggles of nuns who were invited to America from Europe to start schools, of nuns in New Orleans who fought racism and prostitution, of lay women who protested the closing of a local church, who demanded justice for their children who had suffered sexual abuse perpetrated by priests, who advocated for farm workers, gay and lesbian people, and other victims of injustice and exclusion. We meet Mary Daly, Dorothy Day, Delores Huerta, Sister Miriam Joseph, Sister Joan Chittister, and even Mother Angelica as we read about their rhetorical challenges and strategies.
[This] work is exciting for those of us exploring the covert ways that Catholic women have asserted their agency in forming their own identities as well as the identity of the U.S. Catholic Church. This book would be a welcomed contribution to a graduate studies course in feminist rhetoric, historiography, and U.S. Catholicism.